Spring 2018 Course Descriptions/Registration

Please register for all the courses you plan to attend so our teachers will know how many students to expect. You may come to other classes anytime.


The American Character: Some Classic Perspectives

What aspects of the American character have contributed to our country’s current political problems? What moral resources do we now have to address these problems? We’ll explore the American character today using classic sources such as Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Lincoln’s speeches, and short selections from great American literature. Character traits to be discussed include wealth worship, individualism, conformity, addiction to technology, charitableness, patriotism, and optimism regarding the future.

Tue 10:30-11:45 am   •   April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8   •  6 sessions

Sandy Kessler, Ph.D., in Political Science from Boston College. He taught political theory and American political thought at North Carolina State University for 41 years, taught in North Carolina’s State’s OLLI (Lifelong Learning) program for five years, wrote a book on Tocqueville's understanding of religion and democracy, edited an abridged version of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, co-edited a source book entitled American Debates on Sexual Equality, has written many articles on religion and modern political thought.

Register for: The American Character

American Folk Art Is Fine Art

Often confused with crafts, cute depictions of people and animals, or “Grandma Moses,” American Folk Art is a true art form. Antiques dealer, collector and appraiser Allan Katz will explore his personal and professional journey into the art form, tell anecdotes about the long-running PBS program Antiques Roadshow, and offer an update on NYC’s American Folk Art Museum. This visual presentation will provide an overview of the form’s various categories and comparative valuations, with a focus on sculpture.

Tue 10:30-11:45 am   •   May 15   •  1 session

Allan Katz, Member, American Folk Art Museum Board of Trustees. Previously board member, Antique Dealers Association of America.  Expert appraiser in American Folk Art for The Antiques Roadshow since 2004.  His and his wife’s personal collection has been featured in Architectural Digest, Antiques Magazine, Country Home Magazine, and many other publications. B.S., Economics, University of Bridgeport, Conn. Founding member, CFO, Parametrics Industrial Electronics Co. 

Register for: American Folk Art Is Fine Art

Great Movie Soundtracks

What makes a film soundtrack great? A soundtrack can be an integral part of a film. There are plenty of soundtracks using subtle songs in pivotal scenes. There are films that drop music into the story, as part of the plot or even as a character itself. There are those movies that made hits out of obscure songs. There are films that hijacked a popular song and made it indistinguishable from the film itself. We will look at the soundtracks that most enhance films and go hand in hand with their tone and story, giving great insight into pivotal scenes and character growth.

Tue 10:30-11:45 am   •   May 22   •  1 session

Roy Magsisi has been playing the piano since he was four years old. A math nerd, he worked in corporate retail operations for over 20 years at fashion houses like Kenneth Cole, Tom Ford and Christian Dior.  He is currently working to achieve a B.S. in Nursing and a Doctorate in Nursing Practice, to become a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. He works for the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, teaching under-served youth Piano, Music Appreciation and Computer Coding.

Register for: Great Movie Soundtracks

Poetry for Pleasure in the Spring

These lectures with discussion will involve close readings of poems – classic, modern and contemporary. Our aim is to listen to the sound poems make. What makes a successful language performance? We’ll discuss these works’ emotional truth, unity of expression, and attention-holding, pleasure-providing use of language.

Tue 1:00-2:15 pm   •   April 3, 10, 17, May 8, 15, 22   •  6 sessions

Barry Wallenstein, Emeritus Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the City University of New York. Author of eight collections of poetry, most recently At the Surprise Hotel and Other Poems and Drastic Dislocations: New and Selected Poems and Tony’s Blues, a bilingual e-book. Barry is also an Editor of American Book Review.

Register for: Poetry for Pleasure in the Spring

Combatting Anti-Semitism Around the World

Since its founding more than a century ago, the Anti-Defamation League’s mission has been “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. While many hoped the defeat of the Nazis in World War II meant the end of this form of hate, there had been a resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world and here in the U.S. The ADL’s Deputy National Director examines the historical context of the phenomenon and the organization’s response to current factors at play. He will look at the nature of anti-Semitism, the impact of the Holocaust, the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and the "old" vs. the "new" anti-Semitism.

Tue 1:00-2:15 pm   •   April 24   •  1 session

Kenneth Jacobson, ADL Deputy National Director. Responsibilities since joining ADL staff in 1972 have included supervision of and overall strategy for International Affairs and Interfaith Affairs, and senior advisor on both domestic and international issues. Author of numerous publications, including The Protocols: Myth and History; The Middle East: Questions and Answers; The Middle East “Post” Lebanon; and U.S. Aid to the Middle East: A Look Back, A Look Ahead. Articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday. B.A., History and Hebrew Literature, Yeshiva University; M.A,. American History, Columbia University.

Register for: Combatting Anti-Semitism Around the World

Law & Order: We Show, You Decide

The longest-running crime drama on American primetime television (20 years!), L&O is a police procedural with a moral twist. “Ripped from the headlines,” the series is set and filmed here in NYC. Each episode’s first half is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by the NYPD; the second half is the prosecution by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. What makes these early L&Os rise above other crime shows are the moral issues it poses:  what is legal, what is “just”? We’ll watch an episode together until the jury’s decision – and then discuss what we as jurors would have chosen.

Tue 1:00-2:15 pm   •   May 1   •  1 session

Louise Terry, M.A., Columbia University; college English instructor; Education Director, Accent on Language School.

Register for: Law & Order: We Show, You Decide

The Art of the Tale

We will be reading and discussing stories from every corner of the earth, ranging in time from 1945 to 1985. Daniel Halpern wrote in his 1987 introduction that “a serious revival of the short story is under way, as if at this particular juncture…we especially need its purity and magic, its devotion to the crucial – though often eccentric and enigmatic – moments in human life.” Right now seems to be another such juncture, and many of these stories – perhaps because they are not of our chaotic time – seem to address it all the more clearly. Text, The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories, published by Penguin America, 1987, available new and secondhand on Amazon.

Tue 2:30-3:45 pm   •   April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 15, 22   •  8 sessions

Lisa Commager was a writer and editor for UNICEF in Kathmandu and an editor at Orbis Publishing in London. When she returned to New York, she taught literature and writing in private high schools and, for ten years, at Hunter College

Register for: The Art of the Tale


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Short Stories by Latin American Women Writers

These stories cover a variety of subjects, ranging from accurate portrayals of the real to dreamy renderings of the imagined, but they mostly emphasize women’s struggles and aspirations within the rigid parameters imposed upon them by a highly patriarchal environment. By challenging the norm, many of these female characters defy traditional passivity and become agents of change. Texts: C. Correas de Zapata, ed., Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real; Isabel Allende, The Stories of Eva Luna.

Wed 12:15-1:15 pm   •   April 4, 11, 18, 25, May 2, 9   • 6 sessions

Pilar V. Rotella, Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, University of Chicago. Taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Saint Xavier University, University of Chicago, Sarah Lawrence College, Chapman University; continuing education at University of California-Riverside, Marymount Manhattan College and New York University.

Register for: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Short Stories by Latin American Women Writers

The Real World and the “Enchanted” World

“Reality” can be tough to face. It is complex and leaves little room for most people to make a difference. For many, “enchanted realities” offer refuge. They explain the world and make it understandable, if sometimes frightening. Think, for example, of the Tea Party, the Alt-Right, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalist religious sects and strongmen leaders. Some major social critics have offered insights into how such enchanted worlds happen and how their inhabitants close themselves off from people who different from themselves. The explanations will help us explore possibilities for a more shared unity.

Wed 12:15-1:15 pm   •   May 16   •  1 session

Arthur Kover, Ph.D. in Sociology, Yale University. He spent 20 years in the advertising business, mainly in advertising research and strategies, a managing director at Cunningham and Walsh. Emeritus Fellow of Marketing, Yale School of Management. Previously Editor of the Journal of Advertising Research and Review Editor of Administrative Science Quarterly. Has written widely about the factors leading to creativity in advertising.

Register for: The Real World and the “Enchanted” World

Reinvention: One Person’s Journey and Lessons Learned

What will I be when I grow up? That’s a question we often asked ourselves throughout our lives. But now that we are seniors, we have the time, the resources and, yes, the ability to do or be what we wish. His class will explore one person’s journey to reinvent himself and will discuss the motivation, the process, the successes and failures. Above all, it will focus on “resistance,” that voice inside us that says we’re not good enough or, worse, why bother?

Wed 12:15-1:15 pm   •   May 23   •  1 session

Arthur Shapiro, describes himself as “part-time marketing and business consultant with a full-time passion for telling stories.” Former head of US marketing, Seagram Spirits and Wine. Consultant to major spirits companies, start-up ventures in the craft and new product development areas. Writer of Booze Business blog. Recently published Inside the Bottle: People, Brands and Stories, based on his experiences in the industry. His reinvention includes writing plays for stage and screen. Bereavement, starring Mark Linn-Baker, which he wrote and produced, was selected for five short film festivals. Formed a production company that produced web series Mentors, created with and starring Lewis Black. B.A., American History, Hunter College; M.B.A., Marketing, Fordham University.

Register for: Reinvention: One Person’s Journey and Lessons Learned

The Central Park Conservancy: Restoring the Park and Discovering New York History

As part of its work restoring Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy has conducted archeological investigations in the past several years that shed new light on the history of the Park – and on the history of New York City. Discoveries include fortifications built during the War of 1812, survey markers placed during the layout for Manhattan’s street grid, and remnants of Seneca Village, a predominantly African-American community that existed between 1852 and 1857. The Conservancy’s historian will talk about and illustrate this newly-discovered past.

Wed 1:30-2:30 pm   •   April 4   •  1 session

Marie Warsh, landscape historian, Director of Preservation Planning for the Central Park Conservancy. She has written and lectured widely about the history of parks and playgrounds in New York, is currently working on a book on playgrounds in Central Park. B.A. in Art History, Smith College; M.A., in Landscape Studies and Garden History, Bard Graduate Center.

Register for: The Central Park Conservancy: Restoring the Park and Discovering New York History

Building a Healthcare System Half a World Away

Idjwi Island is a large island in Lake Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. While its remoteness has kept it safe from the country’s conflict, it has also prevented the island from modernizing. Average life expectancy a decade ago was just 25 years of age. In 2012, Dave Evans, a semi-retired public health professor, met a Congolese physician and his wife, who were building a community hospital on the island. He worked with the couple to win grants for their project. The Amani Global Works hospital, built with community support, now has 75,000+ patient visits a year and offers a range of medical services. Its network of community health workers helps villages participate in deworming campaigns, also provides education about family planning, malaria and good nutrition. Visiting the island every summer since that first meeting, Dave has immersed himself by studying Swahili. He will show photographs of how the Ban'Idjwi live, of healthcare in the hospital and community, and discuss some of the cultural and political challenges the project has faced.

Wed 1:30-2:30 pm   •   April 11   •  1 session

David Evans, Ph.D. in Sociology, Northwestern University. Semi-retired professor of Clinical Socio-Medical Sciences, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health. Conducted research to improve the health status of minority children and reduce asthma morbidity through educational programs for both patients and health professionals. Has served on NIH panels to improve the quality of asthma care. Lifetime Achievement Award, Behavioral Science Assembly of the American Thoracic Society 2005.

Register for: Building a Healthcare System Half a World Away

Writing Memoirs: Giving the Present a Past, and Giving a Present of Your Past

What are memoirs anyway? Do you have to be a writer to write a memoir? Are your stories important enough to share? Who would read them? What do you have to know before starting to write? What do you get out of writing your life stories? What’s private and what’s secret? Who benefits from a memoir writing group and who benefits from going solo? We’ll discuss these and other questions as we talk about how to begin a memoir, how important the 5Rs of writing are, and take a stab at writing and sharing some of our turning-point stories.

Wed 1:30-2:30 pm   •   April 18, 25   •  2 sessions

Pat Schiff Estess was the editor of Sylvia Porter’s Personal Finance magazine, contributing editor to Entrepreneur, Reader’s Digest’s New Choice, and Woman’s magazines; author of three books dealing with money and relationships. After retiring from publishing she spent a year as a facilitator at StoryCorps, a national oral history project. She has been teaching memoir writing for eight years. B.A., University of Michigan and M.A., Hunter, both in English.

Register for: Writing Memoirs: Giving the Present a Past, and Giving a Present of Your Past

Drawing (and Coloring) Outside the Lines

Ever said or thought, “I can’t draw a straight line”? Well, good for you! Artist Johanna Heinemann-Haas believes this is one’s personal mythology, and that we all can create art once we free ourselves up to have fun. More gut and less head make room for creativity to brew. She’ll take us through the process. We’ll have paper and markers for you. Feel free to bring a picture or two that might inspire you.

Wed 1:30-2:30 pm   •   May 2   •  1 session

Johanna Heinemann-Haas, illustrator. Her whimsical illustrations have become t-shirts for Urban Outfitters; she has a seasonal card line and fulfils commissions.

Register for: Drawing (and Coloring) Outside the Lines

Shakespeare in Love – At the Movies

The Bard has long been boffo at the box office. We’ll be looking at excerpts from three important films of Shakespeare’s plays, Julius Caesar (directed by Joseph Mankiewicz), Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli), and Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh). W.S. was foreshadowing writing for the screen, even as he was triumphing at the Globe with the soliloquies, verbal arias, overlapping action, breaking of the frame, and other cinematic techniques. And of course through the brilliance of what is on the soundtrack amplifying all the visual innovations.

Wed 1:30-2:30 pm   •   May 9, 16, 23   •  3 sessions

Daniel Leary, Professor Emeritus of British and American literature, City University of New York. Published widely on George Bernard Shaw, modern drama and Shakespeare.

Register for: Shakespeare in Love – At the Movies

Public Education in NYC: A Century of Changing Philosophies, Approaches and Political Battles

The city’s public education system has been an evolving one, beginning with the immigration movement in the 1920s. This course will look at the development of our schools from the Depression period to the present, and examine in depth the great school wars of the 1960s and 1970s. It will also analyze the 1954 Supreme Court decision ending “separate but equal” schools based on race and its effect on the NYC schools, Mayor Bloomberg's impact on the schools beginning in 2001, and the contradictions of charter schools. We will also attempt to forecast the future of public schools in NYC. 

Wed 2:45-3:45 pm   •   April 4, 11, 18, 25   •  4 sessions

Stephen Prenner, 55+ years involvement in education, including Director, Enrollment Management, Adelphi University; Adjunct Professor of Education, CUNY; Assistant to Superintendent. Brooklyn High Schools. B.A. History, Brooklyn College; M.S. History, CUNY; M.S. Counseling, Long Island University.

Register for: Public Education in NYC: A Century of Changing Philosophies, Approaches and Political Battles

Explorations in Consciousness

This class is a lively discussion about human nature and human potential. PowerPoint, videos and guest speakers are all part of trying to understand the great questions of humanity: Who are we? Why are we here? And where did we come from?  The class may not answer those questions directly, but students will walk away with a more enlightened understanding of the mysteries of reality and its intricacies.

Wed 2:45-3:45 pm   •   May 2, 9, 16, 23   •  4 sessions

Alan Steinfeld, teaches adult education on topics devoted to creativity and perception. He hosts a cable program, “New Realities,” Monday nights on WLNY, Channel 57, and is the founder of NewRealities.com, a website for body, mind and spirit.

Register for: Explorations in Consciousness


Charming Cads on Film

We’ve all fallen for one, whether as lover, business partner or supposed friend. He’s good-looking, intelligent, personable, beloved by all – that is, when he wants to be. Other times he’s conniving, selfish, even ruthless. We’ll watch and discuss comic and serious takes on such cads: Catch Me If You Can, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.

Thu 10:30-11:45 am   •   April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24   •  8 sessions

Louise Terry, M.A., Columbia University; college English instructor; Education Director, Accent on Language School.

Register for: Charming Cads on Film

Politics 2018

The November midterm Congressional and gubernatorial elections are fast approaching. How are the races shaping up? Which party will take the lead in the House of Representatives? Will the Democrats just be the anti-Trump party or come out with a strong agenda of their own? What potential presidential candidates will emerge for the Democrats – and perhaps as Republican or Independent challengers to the president? What will the Mueller investigation turn up (if anything)? That and so much more in this interactive class.

Thu 1:00-2:15 pm   •   April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24   •  8 sessions

Lawrence Geneen, formerly Chief Operating Officer of the American Management Association and Executive Vice President of Johnson and Higgins. He is currently a risk management consultant.

Register for: Politics 2018

“Don't Fence Me In”:  Cole Porter’s Enduring Music and His Dramatic Life

Stacy Sullivan, award-winning vocalist, pays tribute to Porter’s enduring legacy of great songs and lyrics in the American Songbook. Through the decades, with the enormous changes in the music scene, his sophisticated, witty and sometimes melancholy music remains vibrant and popular. Porter led an extravagant and tortured life which sometimes is reflected in his songs, sometimes is hidden. 

Thu 2:30-3:45 pm   •   April 5   •  1 session

Stacy Sullivan has appeared in venues around the world and as a cabaret artist. She wrote and performed It’s a Good Day: A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee, an interpretive exploration of the extraordinary music and personal struggles of a singer, composer and actress whose remarkable career spanned over six decades, influencing jazz and popular music culture worldwide. New York Times critics praised the show as "spellbinding"  "compelling," “captur[ing] that rare combination of vulnerability and worldliness."  Written and performed On the Air: Songs for Marian McPartland with legendary jazz pianist Jon Weber. B.A. in Music, Tulsa University.

Register for: Don't Fence Me In: Cole Porter’s Enduring Music and His Dramatic Life

Calling Yourself a Socialist: From Taboo to Trendy

The word socialist was used for decades to attack New Deal Democrats as “pinko” statists. But since Bernie Sanders declared himself to be one, it’s been in, with many young people embracing the label. Would you want to do that? The term seems to cover a multitude of sins. Let’s explore together what it (really) means to us and its critics.

Thu 2:30-3:45 pm   •   April 12   •  1 session

Bill Caspary, political science faculty, NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Ph.D., Political Science, Northwestern University. Teaching and research interests are democratic theory, education, ethics, peace and conflict resolution. Taught for 30 years at Washington University in St. Louis; worked as an educational consultant, ombudsman, and mediator. Author of Dewey on Democracy. Received the Distinguished Career Award in 2002 from the American Political Science Association.

Register for: Calling Yourself a Socialist: From Taboo to Trendy

Memory and History: An Inside Look at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

Located on the footprints of the Twin Towers, the 9/11 Memorial Museum serves as the country’s principal institution for examining the attacks and their ongoing implications. Housing thousands of artifacts, archival footage and media pieces, the 110,000 square foot museum is itself an artifact, located largely at bedrock at the architectural foundations of the site. The development of the museum and the Memorial above, both grappled with how best to honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks, while acknowledging the emotional, difficult and ongoing nature of the story. The Museum’s head of Education & Public Programs discusses these challenges and offers behind-the-scenes insights into the institution and its vast collection.

Thu 2:30-3:45 pm   •   April 19   •  1 session

Noah Rauch, is the Senior Vice President for Education & Public Programs at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. He was a senior member of the team that conceived and designed the institution’s educational programming in advance of its opening. Previously worked at several museums, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Exploratorium, and the L.A. Museum of Natural History. Ed.M, Arts-in-Education,Harvard University.

Register for: Memory and History: An Inside Look at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

Notes of a Visitor to This Planet: Reflections on (Almost) Everything

After 57 years of teaching and writing, Manfred Weidhorn has arrived at a series of ideas and conjectures. This course will cover musings on philosophy (on a very informal level), politics, democracy, history, religion, science, psychology – but not sports. Among the topics are: What is Truth? Is there Progress? What does one make of the huge number of religions in the world? Why are both Conservatives and Liberals Full of It? The many strange beliefs held and actions taken by otherwise normal people – or What Makes Us Tick?

Thu 2:30-3:45 pm   •   April 26, May 3, 10, 17   •  4 sessions

Manfred Weidhorn, Professor Emeritus of English at Yeshiva University. He has published a dozen books and over 100 essays on such historical figures like Shakespeare, Milton, Churchill, Galileo, Napoleon, Robert E. Lee and Jackie Robinson, as well as on cultural history, and the relationship between religion and science. 

Register for: Notes of a Visitor to This Planet:Reflections on (Almost) Everything

Please register only for courses you plan to attend. $265 for unlimited classes.

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